Every time I bring a new group to Israel, the people traveling with us wrestle with uncertainties. The unknown is, well… unknown. It makes no difference how well someone prepares in advance. Once on the ground in Tel Aviv, my “little lambs” have no choice but to leave the confines of the plane and follow me. Within hours, the character of a group begins to reveal itself. Each tour develops its own unique distinctive. Join our latest
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Two thousand years into human existence, God moved in the heart of one man. He was given a mission to fulfill, to become the father of a great nation and a blessing to the entire world. To accomplish his mission, Abram was told to step away from all the comforts of home, out of his comfort zone, into the unknown.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him. – Genesis 12:1-4
It is not hard to draw comparisons between those God has placed in my charge with Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot. Abram’s family left their home in Ur of the Chaldees enroute to Canaan, the Promised Land. Along the way, tragedy struck. Terah (Abram’s father) died. Put yourself in Abram’s place. Given a clear mission from God, how would you have responded if while obeying His calling reality hit you so forcefully? Though I have never had anyone die during a tour, God often refocuses our group’s attention through the unexpected.
Struggling together through these unexpected surprises, the best and the worst in people is revealed. Frequently, they lose things once deemed to be mission critical. “I have to find my blow dryer. I simply cannot survive without it.” Others may find humor in their situation. Of course, that can really tick people off. Occasionally, someone gets hurt or becomes sick. Life hits us square in the face as our group becomes a small congregation walking forward together into the unknown.
Tour group members want to know what each day holds in advance. They have pretty much memorized the entire tour schedule ahead of departure. On our latest tour, God got our attention right from the start. The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv departed over an hour behind schedule. I knew immediately this was going to cramp our plans for the next day. Getting through passport control and out to our bus put us another forty-five minutes behind. Before long, everyone realized we would not be able to make our first stop at Tel Azekah to survey the battlefield where David defeated the Philistine giant, Goliath. Oh well, zeh mah yesh (Hebrew for “it is what it is”).
As much as we think we are in control of our present, we are not. Why? Because no one shares God’s position with Him. He is God. We are not. ‘Nuff said!
Tel Maresha / Beit Guvrin
Pushing past our first scheduled stop, we arrived at Tel Maresha to participate in an active archeological dig under the direction of Archeological Seminars. Our amateur archeologists descended into caves to uncover items that haven’t been touched by human hands for over 2,200 years. Folks participating in this dig have found pottery, coins, bones, jewelry and much more.
Sherry, from Pennsylvania, pushed her trowel into the dirt floor of the cave, lifting out of the rubble a perfectly preserved oil lamp. Triumph beamed across her face and she called for Nadav, our dig supervisor. “Look what I found!” In that moment something special happened. All the fatigue and frustrations of modern travel disappeared as the group experienced the collective joy of discovering something valuable through their joint labor together. That’s one of the purposes for these tours. We want the people on our discipleship training tours to discover the joy of uncovering important truth together, for the benefit of the whole group. For more on the unique educational experiences provided by Archeological Seminars watch this
Beersheba – 21st Century Capital of the Negev
Traveling further south, we spent the night in the modern city of Beersheba, the capital of the Negev. Beersheba is a development city. Israel’s development cities were started to accommodate Jews arriving in Israel from all around the world, including those fleeing persecution in the surrounding Arab nations. This is a point of significant differentiation between Israel and its Muslim neighbors. Whereas Israel joyfully opens wide her arms to take in Jewish people fleeing persecution, the Muslim nations on Israel’s borders have refused to allow their Arab brothers and sisters who were displaced by Muslim aggression against the Jewish state to assimilate into their own societies. It is easy to observe the disparity in the quality of life between Israel’s development cities and the refugee camps of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
This reality should cause thinking people to wonder why the approaches of Israel and her neighbors are so different when it comes to handling refugees in crisis.